How is Seaweed Protein Revolutionizing the Plant-based Meat Industry?
Seaweed protein is slowly becoming popular as a substitute for meat-based protein due to growing awareness regarding the need to conserve ecology and environment. Along with this, the Covid-19 pandemic too, has played an extremely critical role in changing the food habits of people all across the world. Another important factor behind the rising popularity of sea veggies is that they provide essential micronutrients like iodine, polysaccharides, etc.
Ever since the Paris Climate Accords were signed in 2015 and adopted in 2016, there has been an ever-growing emphasis on maintaining a sustainable lifestyle. As the rate of global warming has steadily increased with each passing year, climate change mitigation has become an important aspect of almost all government legislations and policies. This has compelled even the private sector, including different industries and markets, to adopt sustainable practices- be it in manufacturing, supply chain management, or delivery of digital services. Even the agriculture sector, one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, is slowly being revolutionized by introduction of sustainable agricultural practices like Zero Budget Natural Farming, organic farming, aquaponics, etc.
Sustainable plant-based nutrition, as a result, has been one of the leading areas of research in the last few years. This research has gained pace since the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic has triggered the general populace across the globe to take nutrition and immunity seriously. An increasing trend as to adoption of healthy plant-based diets which will fortify immunity is being witnessed globally. This trend coupled with the ongoing research has resulted in development of some stunning results. Seaweed products, especially seaweed protein products, are examples of this.
Why Seaweed Protein is Poised to Replace Meat-based Protein
Seaweeds or sea veggies, as they are referred to popularly these days, are nothing but algae that grow in the sea. Researchers have found out that what initially were considered to be inedible and fish food, seaweeds are a rich source of proteins and other micronutrients even for humans. Some of the leading experts in food nutrition have focused their energies on a peculiar type of seaweed, known as red seaweed. Red seaweeds have one of the highest protein levels, in fact around five times higher than soyabeans which were once poised to lead the plant-based meat industry. Also, the red seaweeds have a sort of umami flavor which is generally associated with meat products.
One other important factor which will help seaweed protein to replace meat-based protein is that the global supply chains for red seaweed are already in place. That is because red seaweed is already being used as an ingredient in a number of daily-use products, such as toothpastes, ice creams, etc. However, in these cases, seaweeds are used as an important source of agar and carrageenan, not protein. But, if leading companies of the seaweed protein market invest in research and development of extraction methods of protein from seaweeds, the already existing supply chains can make future processes simpler. Thus, red seaweeds are surely better placed, than any other plant-based meat products, to replace actual meat-based products due to various factors like high protein content, delicious taste, and robust global supply chains.
Which Nutrients Do Sea Veggies Provide Apart from Seaweed Proteins?
Sea veggies are not just excellent source of plant-based proteins, or specifically seaweed proteins, but provide many other micronutrients which are essential for day-to-day functioning of the human body. Some of these nutrients provided by seaweeds are listed below:
- Iodine and Tyrosine
Seaweeds are rich sources of iodine, mainly because of their ability to absorb iodine, which is present abundantly in their natural environments, i.e., the oceans. Along with iodine, seaweeds also provide tyrosine, an amino acid, which is an important chemical for production of different brain chemicals like dopamine and epinephrine. Additionally, both these nutrients, iodine and tyrosine, help in the smooth functioning of thyroid gland.
- Various Types of Antioxidants
Antioxidants are extremely essential for the human body, as they help in suppressing the effect of free radicals which are responsible for various ailments like heart diseases, diabetes, etc. Apart from vital antioxidants like vitamin A, C, and E, seaweeds also contain carotenoids like fucoxanthin which helps in better protection of cell membranes.
Seaweeds are a good source of sulfated polysaccharides which are known to help in increasing the number of “good” bacteria in the gut. Along with this, polysaccharides also help in the production of short-chain fatty acids which help in improving the overall health of the gut. Thus, polysaccharides, and ultimately seaweeds, help in metabolism of the body.
The Bottom Line
Seaweed proteins are slowly but surely taking over the plant-based meat industry. The high cost associated with extraction of seaweed protein from these sea vegetables remains the biggest roadblock in the full-blown expansion of the seaweed protein market. However, leading companies of this market are investing heavily which is expected to clear this hurdle in the coming years.
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